Isabella Plantation is a stunning 40 acre woodland garden set within a Victorian plantation in the centre of London’s Richmond Park. In this post on spring at Isabella Plantation Richmond Park, I’ll share information about seeing the azaleas and rhododendrons in bloom and general tips for visiting year round.
First opened to the public in 1953, Isabella Plantation is classified as part of the broader parkland Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and is run on organic principles with wildlife in mind. While Isabella Plantation was first enclosed in 1831, some trees in the garden, ancient oak pollards, pre-date the enclosure in 1637.
This beautiful woodland garden is well known for its evergreen azaleas that line the ponds and streams. Isabella Plantation also contains large and important collections of rhododendrons, camellias and magnolias. Bluebells flower in naturalised drifts around the woodland garden.
Best Time to Visit Isabella Plantation
While Isabella Plantation is wonderful to visit year round, the woodland garden is particularly well known as one of the best places to visit in London for spring flowers. The best time to visit Isabella Plantation to see the evergreen azaleas and rhododendrons at their peak of flower is late April and early to mid May, when the woodland garden bursts into a riot of colour with beautiful shades of pink, red and purple.
There are a several types of evergreen azaleas to look out for while exploring Isabella Plantation: ‘Orange Beauty’ which are the most orange, ‘Rosebud’ which has opening buds that resemble tiny roses, ‘Palestrina’ which is white with a faint ray of green, ‘Vuk’s Scarlet’ which has large, deep red silky flowers and ‘Hinode Giri’, which are the bright crimson ones that can be seen at the Still Pond.
Isabella Plantation Richmond Park Map
Click the Isabella Plantation Richmond Park map for a larger image. You can also download a PDF of the Isabella Plantation map from the Richmond Park website.
Spring at Isabella Plantation
The red dotted trail on the map is one of the best routes to see the azaleas and rhododendrons. In this post, I will share photos from taking the red dotted trail from the Broomfield Hill gate to see the azaleas at Isabella Plantation in spring.
Starting from the Broomfield Hill gate, walk ahead until you round a corner and see a log on your left that is marked with “Still Pond” and an arrow. That is the beginning of the red dotted trail and takes you along the Camellia Walk towards the Still Pond. You will already see the brilliant colours along the Main Stream on your right.
Follow the Camellia Walk until you see another log that is marked with “Still Pond” at the beginning of a trail through a wooded area. When the azaleas are in full bloom, this area is bursting with vibrant spring colour. Follow the path around the bushes to see the beautiful Still Pond on the other side.
The Still Pond at Isabella Plantation is a wonderful spot to take reflection shots especially when the azaleas are in full bloom. As I mentioned earlier, the bright crimson azaleas at the Still Pond are called ‘Hinode Giri’.
Small Stream Azaleas
The ponds and streams in Isabella Plantation Richmond Park are fed from a natural supply of water pumped from Pen Ponds in the heart of Richmond Park.
There are many beautiful spots along the streams at Isabella Plantation to take photos of the azaleas. Look out for the small bridges to take photos of the stunning spring colours along the water.
Turn left at the Main Stream and continue to follow the trail that will take you around the Heather Garden and Bog Garden towards Thomson’s Pond. Isabella Plantation is one of the best places to see rhododendrons in London and there are a number of rhododendrons to see along this part of the plantation.
Heading towards Thomson’s Pond you will walk through the interconnecting pools of the Bog Garden which is wonderful to visit in late spring and summer.
The Isabella Plantation Bog Garden is planted with exotic pond plants such as giant rhubarb and ornamental grasses such as golden oats. Native perennials at the Bog Garden include purple loosestrife and Rosebay willowherb.
Thomson’s Stream, between the Bog Gardens and Thomson’s Pond, is one of the best places to photograph the azaleas along the streams from the small bridges.
The trail heading towards Thomson’s Pond along the stream is also lined with gorgeous rhododendrons.
The views along the streams are amazing, with the shuttlecock ferns unfurling amidst the stunning colours. This beautiful view is from the bridge closest to Thomson’s Pond.
Lots more colour this visit at Thomson’s Pond, most of the azaleas are flowering in this spot and it’s looking beautiful. The ponds in Isabella Plantation are home to a wide range of birds including mallard, coot, moorhen and Mandarin duck.
There’s an open green space, Thomson’s Lawn, next to the pond where you can relax and enjoy a picnic.
Bluebells at Isabella Plantation
The Bluebell Walk at Isabella Plantation runs between Thomson Pond and Broomfield Hill Gate. Isabella Plantation is one of the best places in London to see bluebell woods.
Right at Broomfield Hill Gate, this vibrant display of yellow will certainly catch your eye when it’s in bloom. This is a deciduous azalea, Azalea pontica, and has a rich, spicy scent.
Isabella Plantation Dogs
Dogs are allowed in Isabella Plantation, but must be on a lead.
Isabella Plantation Café
The Isabella Plantation Café is a food and drink kiosk in the Broomfield Hill car park. The café kiosk is open from 9am and serves pastries, snacks, hot and cold beverages and some hot food.
Isabella Plantation Location
Isabella Plantation is in the centre of Richmond Park, just south of Pen Ponds. The closest vehicle gate is Kingston Gate and the closest pedestrian gate is Ladderstile Gate. The closest car park is Broomfield Hill car park (5 minutes away), on the park’s south eastern perimeter.
Isabella Plantation is a 30 minute walk from Pembroke Lodge and Petersham Park car park, a 25 minute walk from Kingston Gate and a 15 minute walk from Ladderstile Gate.
Isabella Plantation Information
Address: Richmond Park, Richmond TW10 5HS
Opening Hours: open daily from dusk to dawn. Richmond Park is open to vehicles from 7:00 am in the summer and 7:30 am in the winter
Car Park: The main car park is at Broomfield Hill, on the park’s south eastern perimeter, closest to Kingston Gate. Peg’s Pond car park is a dedicated car park for those with disabilities and is open all week and also at weekends, and can be accessed from Richmond Gate, Ham Gate or Kingston Gate 7 days a week. During spring and summer, I’d recommend getting to Richmond Park by 10am if you want to use the car park during the weekends.
Facilities: There are two toilet facilities in Isabella Plantation, both with wheelchair accedsible cubicles: one is near Still Pond and one is by Peg’s Pond gate. The toilet at Still Pond is open between April and November. The toilet at Peg’s Pond is open year round and also has a baby change facility.
This post was updated on 22 April 2022 with recent photos and video.
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